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Cambodia Vacation, Part Four: Angkor Wat and More

On the morning of my last day in Siem Reap, I got up super early. I was finally going to see one of the most famous places in the world, Angkor Wat. Outside of my hotel, there were tuk tuk drivers waiting to take anyone to the sites. I basically went with the one who was the least pushy. For a pretty low price, he offered to take me around for the day. I wouldn't say he was a tour guide, but he set the itinerary and then would leave me at each place for as long as I wanted to stay.

Because my time was limited, I wanted to get through all the best places as quickly as possible. My flight left in the evening that day, so I needed to get back to get my stuff at the hotel and then get to the airport. While I would have liked to spend more time, maybe bike around on my own, now I just have a reason to visit again in the next few years!

You have to pay for a day pass before entering. It is all clearly marked and easy to do. They take your picture and put it on the pass. At various places, an attendant will ask to see the pass. I think I took it out three or four times.

Angkor Thom

We started off at the south gate of Angkor Thom. The first thing I noticed was the incredible variation of transportation people were using to get around. What is most striking, however, are the large faces that greet you along the road. Everyone was taking tons of pictures, but I still had time to get a few of my own.

The south gate itself was rather impressive. I had never seen anything like it. And this was only the beginning! There are much larger and more impressive sights!

Once inside, we kept going down the road, beside bicyclists, people on elephants (elephanists?), walkers (not zombies, just people on foot), vans, etc, until we got to the first major site, the Bayon. My driver pointed at it, pointed out a couple of things on the map, and told me where to meet him when I was done.

Prasat Bayon

First of all, it looks like a rocky mountain range. And although it is enormous, the most impressive part is the huge stone carvings of faces. When I was there, I swam through a lot of tourists to take pictures. At that point of the day, it was mostly Koreans. Just like home! Because I was in a bit of a hurry, I took no time to stroll around. I tried to find everything quickly, check it out, and move along. At a certain point, I felt like I on the 90s Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple. I always thought I would be great at that game.

Okay, so maybe it was nothing like that. A guy can dream though, right? Also, I guess not everybody was as much in love with Hidden Temple as I was. Some people thought it was terrible. Crazy!

Psh, sign! Careful is my middle name! No... Danger is. I apologize, sign.

Baphuon Temple

Just a short walk away was Baphuon. The view from the top was nice. It was not as crowded either. Because of the lack of people milling about, I found myself able to take in the details easier. You can see how much care and artistry went into creating these structures.

Then I left through Victory Gate to...

Chau Say Tevoda and Ta Keo Temple

Here I found people selling things all around the structures. There are not as large as the other places I had been to, but they were still nice for a quick look. Also, be careful of old women asking to help you pray and giving you a red string for your wrist. They will want a "donation," and it is difficult to turn them down. They are pushy, but since they look frail, you might have a hard time allowing yourself to fend them off. Just keep walking and ignore everyone. It seems mean, but that is really the only way to do it.

Ta Prohm

Okay. Now it was on to the famous Ta Prohm. People on the internet, people in Cambodia, people all over kept telling me about Angelina Jolie having been here to film Tomb Raider. Everyone seemed very proud of that! I guess it is cool. I mean, it's no Breaking Bad being filmed in New Mexico, but it's still pretty nice. (I'm joking of course)

Ta Prohm is a great example of how nature, which humans seem to feel has been defeated, will come back and claim everything in the end. Trees grow up into, through, and around all these structures. Their roots twist and turn, creating whole new, unintended pieces of art.

It was here that I also met a small old man who would not leave me alone. It ended up being awkward. He was nice, but I really did not take my own "just ignore everyone" advice. He showed me around and even showed me a few pretty cool little things. However, at the end of the "tour" he wanted money. Of course. Whatever. It didn't kill me to give him a hand out for his unsolicited help.

Don't miss the little dinosaur! Wait, they knew about dinosaurs?

Tree roots don't care about architecture, man.

When I left I actually could not find my tuk tuk driver. I walked around for a bit and started to worry that perhaps I had misunderstood or forget where I was supposed to meet up with him. Oh great... However, after about 20 minutes of exploring and making sure I was correct, he came up apologizing. He was in the same place I was in, but he had fallen asleep in the back of the tuk tuk in the parking lot. I had passed it a few times, but didn't recognize it amongst all the other dozens!

And Finally... Angkor Wat

The time had come for the most famous site: Angkor Wat. We pulled up to the temple and I had done pretty well on time so far. I wanted to leave plenty of room to explore Angkor Wat, having heard lots of great things about it. My driver gave me a basic rundown of the layout and set me loose.

The shear size of the complex stood out immediately. You have to walk rather far just to get to the main gate. And inside, you still have to keep walking just to get to the main structures. Along the way, there are a few other buildings. I stopped to take a few photos and met a monkey. I was told to not approach them, so I left it alone.

Try not to lose your... head there... [maniacal laughing]

At the time I visited, the main facade was under construction. While I would have liked to have seen everything obscured, the rest of the place contained so much detail, it was nearly overwhelming. At the Angkor National Museum earlier in the week, I had seen many of the same depictions from the actual Angkor Wat building. I totally recommend going to see that museum before visiting Angkor Wat; it is beneficial to your understanding of the place.

My basic idea was to circle around the temple and slowly make my way to the center. That way I would not miss anything.

It was beautiful. Certainly something I would go back and visit. I loved Cambodia, despite my sickness. I would love to go back.


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